Listen to my conversation with Matt Swaim on the Son Rise Morning Show (5-22-23), discussing World Communications Day. Click here and jump to the 1:39 mark.
This commentary was also published 5-21-23 in “Phronesis in Pieces” at billschmitt.substack.com.
Today is the 57th World Day of Social Communications, an annual “teachable moment” established by the Vatican shortly after the Second Vatican Council. Pope Paul VI began the tradition of offering timely reflections on the application of Catholic values to the various technologies for sharing information.
During six years of special attention to Pope Francis’s annual messages for World Communications Day, I have stockpiled these favorite quotes that sum up his guidance for journalism, the media, and our responsibilities as Catholic participants in humanity’s pursuit of truth and wisdom:
From the 2023 WCD message — “Speaking with the Heart: The Truth in Love.”
- Communication should “never separate truth from charity.” … We need respectful dialogue especially at this urgent time of war. Communication must not be hostile. “Overcome the tendency to discredit and insult opponents.”
- Communication must be “a genuine antidote to cruelty.”
From the 2022 WCD message – “Listening with the Ear of the Heart.”
- “We are losing the ability to listen to those in front of us, both in the normal course of every relationships and when debating the most important issues of civil life.”
- “The greatest need of human beings is to be heard.” … (This harkens back to “Faith comes through listening” or hearing. (Rom 10:17) Listening is a humble and freeing act. God “inclines his ear” to us.)
From the 2021 WCD— “Come and See: Communicating by Encountering People as they Are.”
- Original journalistic investigation into the hard and full truth of situations “is being replaced” by reporting built around simplified and “often tendentious” narratives—rather than complex stories honoring human dignity …. The staffs convey what advocates want us to know “without ever hitting the streets” to gather and verify facts of life face-to-face.
- A prayer: “Teach us to go where no one else will go, to take the time needed to understand, to pay attention to the essentials, not to be distracted by the superfluous, to distinguish deceptive appearances from the truth.”
From the 2020 WCD—“That You May Tell Your Children and Grandchildren: Life Becomes History.” (Importance of storytelling.)
- We need stories that “can reveal the interweaving of the threads which connect us to one another.” … “The human capacity to ‘weave’ (Latin texere) gives us not only the word textile but also text. The stories of different ages all have a common “loom”: the thread of their narrative involves “heroes”, including everyday heroes, who in following a dream, confront difficult situations and combat evil, driven by a force that makes them courageous, the force of love.”
- “With the gaze of the great storyteller – the only one who has the ultimate point of view – we can then approach the other characters, our brothers and sisters, who are with us as actors in today’s story. For no one is an extra on the world stage, and everyone’s story is open to possible change. Even when we tell of evil, we can learn to leave room for redemption.”
From the 2019 WCD— “We Are Members One of Another: From Social Network Communities to the Human Community.” (Dangers of Social Media)
- “God is not solitude, but communion; He is love, and therefore communication, because love always communicates.”
- “The Church herself is a network woven together by Eucharistic communion, where unity is based not on ‘likes,’ but on the truth, on the Amen.” This agreement encourages us to welcome others as brothers and sisters.
From 2018 WCD— “The Truth Will Set You Free: Fake News and the Journalism of Peace.”
- “Preventing and identifying the way disinformation works also calls for a profound and careful process of discernment. We need to unmask what could be called the “snake-tactics” used by those who disguise themselves…. This was the strategy employed by the “crafty serpent” in the Book of Genesis, who, at the dawn of humanity, created the first fake news.”
- “A weighty responsibility rests on the shoulders of those whose job is to provide information, namely, journalists, the protectors of news. In today’s world, theirs is, in every sense, not just a job; it is a mission. … I would like, then, to invite everyone to promote a journalism of peace. … I mean a journalism that is truthful and opposed to falsehoods, rhetorical slogans, and sensational headlines.”
Image from ClipSafari.com, a collection of Creative Commons designs. Note that some quotes have been paraphrased; the actual papal texts are available online.